Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Research (or... a great reason to treat myself to a hot chocolate)

Last week I went to one of my favourite places in the whole world (I'm so lucky it's right on my doorstep) to do some research, and I took a few photos...

This is where I imagine my poor homeless girl sleeping. I think it's an amazing setting, albeit a little blustery for her to want to hang around too long. The benefits of research mean I might have to have the character changing her mind about where she sleeps.



Smeaton's Tower, looking east





 Just after I took this photo of Smeaton's Tower - while thinking 'Ooh, it's getting dark' - it hailed and I had to run for cover. One of the great things about the Hoe is you can see the weather rolling in - rain (and hail) usually comes in from the west, and it's fascinating to watch the shower coming closer and closer. This is when I ran to a great cafe to  drink hot chocolate while I listened to the hail and watched the sea going wild!



So, that was my research - now all I have to do is make this slightly run-down, rather strange looking coastline sound beautiful and comforting in my prose.

This is a departure for me - I don't usually put my stories in a specific location. It could all go badly wrong, especially as I'm focusing on the less salubrious side of life in Plymouth. I'll try hard to make it beautiful and exotic at the same time!

Do you write about places you know?
Do you spend time soaking up the feeling of the place?
Does location form a large part of your writing?




44 comments:

  1. That place has massive ambiance and looks like a great setting for story. Most of my stories take place in Connecticut because that's where I grew up. I haven't lived there in ten years but I still have yet to find a place as charming or as magical as New England so I use my characters to go back there and dwell:)

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    1. I've just tried to comment on your blog, but the box wouldn't let me scroll down to publish the comment!!

      It's strange, because until recently my stories had no 'place', but I've written two in the last year about this area. It obviously means a lot to me! I'd love to visit New England one day - it looks so beautiful.

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  2. My horror story The Strangers Outside takes place in a holiday cottage where I used to go as a child. I returned to the cottage to write the story and I freaked myself out with my overactive imagination.

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    1. Oh wow, I can imagine you'll never be able to look at that cottage the same way again :-)

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  3. So what is that first building? Or what was it?
    The closest I've come to using a location was taking what I remember of living in Arizona as a kid and placing that desert in my series as the planet Tgren.

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    1. I have no idea what that building was yet. It's close to the outdoor lido, but built in a different style - the lido is Art Deco. I'm planning to go to the library soon to figure it out.

      That's a pretty cool use for a desert!

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  4. This place looks amazing!! For real. I would love to see that lighthouse in person :)

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    1. It is a great place. I went to the top of the lighthouse once - the views are amazing.

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  5. I usually use places in Cornwall to set my books, just because I love it there!

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    1. I agree, Cornwall is beautiful and has some fantastic settings.

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  6. Great photos! And it sounds like it was a great day for hot chocolate. :)

    I tend to set my stories in "real" places - like a house or a street or a town - but they're usually made up or an amalgam of places I've been or lived in, etc.

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    1. My next book to come out started life in my home town, but I needed things like a town square which we don't have, so it became more of an amalgamation. But this is different, because I can't change the details, and because I don't need/want to.

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  7. I put actual places I know into my writing quite often. Albeit, sometimes the names will be altered slightly or the actual setting, in terms of place on a map, is changed. I find it helps with the authenticity.

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    1. I wish I could make up place names. I think the reason I haven't placed my stories so far is because I struggle to make the place names sound real. I'd end up with Westchestertonville, or something!

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  8. No, don't make it beautiful and comforting - keep it as it is; it's so stirring and wonderful!
    Locations are very inspiring. I have a memory from the village in which I grew up. There is the scariest wall there, and that's what my next novel is going to be about - a scary wall! I think I've just gone insane!

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    1. I'm so happy that you're all being so nice about my favourite place! A scary wall?? That sounds interesting. Is it like the scary walls in the Czech Republic that are made of skulls? BTW there's nothing 'insane' in fiction - it's all good :-)

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  9. Love the photos! I don't usually put too much emphasis on setting, but I do think I set my novel in New York City due to a subconscious need/want to live there.

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    1. And a great reason to spend time there, for research purposes.

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  10. I want to hang out and drink cocoa with you!! I am so jealous. I live near a river. It's not nearly as romantic sounding...though we do have the river boat whistles and they make me feel all Mark Twainish, so I guess that's good.

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    1. I've discovered enough fantastic hot chocolate vendors to spend a whole week drinking it! See, river boat whistles sounds romantic to me.

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  11. excellent location and I think your writing it into the backdrop will add another dimension. I have no doubt the details will be rich, and even if you are on the "wrong side of the tracks" in the town - you have the sea as backdrop. The poor girl could peer into a window and wish for hot chocolate. I might need to do some research soon....hmm. Where to go? Where to go?

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    1. I'm hoping I can do it justice! The sea always makes things look better, doesn't it?

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  12. Not only do I write about places I know, I visit them and eat the food off the menu and drink the grog. Then I place the establishments in my books as places my characters frequent.

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    1. That's cool. And maybe one day, you'll get burgers named after you all round town, and your readers will visit these restaurants to eat it? I know readers love it when they know the places that are being described in books.

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  13. i write about places i know and places i don't know - but my writing is futuristic, so i keep some stuff, but the changes i make are possible... gorgeous, mysterious pictures! love them, but if it needs to be more inviting, let the sun come out!

    and i was born in plymouth! (massachusetts!) ha
    happy wednesday!

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    1. It's a truly awesome place in the sun. But it was perfectly dull when I was there, because my poor character will have to battle with such weather.

      Plymothians of the world unite!

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  14. I usually do write about places I know, although I often don't name them and sometimes make a few changes to reality.

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    1. I think that's mostly what I've done in the past, but I have to name Plymouth this time, because so many people recognise the lighthouse it would be strange not to.

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  15. Oh, I love these photos. Especially the Tower.

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    1. I thought you would, Julie, with your affinity to lighthouses :-)

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  16. BEAUTIFUL.

    I actually do try to write about places I know, but I also write about places I've never been, researching everything I can from a distance and making plans to visit one day--before I publish about the specific location. But yes, I have been inspired by places--like the Rocky Mountains, NYC, and the forested settings of upstate NY.

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    1. For another novel, part of the action takes place in Arizona. I did a lot of Google Mapping for that one. And I chose a German suburb the same way. Unfortunately I don't have the time or funds to check out whether I'm even close to accurate on either of those!

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  17. The location is very beautiful and especially the lighthouse. When we have taken trips to coastal areas I always love visiting the lighthouses.

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    1. I love it because it's pretty unique to have a completely useless lighthouse in such a prominent place. It was originally a working lighthouse a few miles off the coast - the first of it's kind, I think, because the previous ones had been made of wood. A new one had to be built when the rock it stood on started to break up.

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  18. Since I've now lived in Oregon for 15 years, all of my setting are in this state. Even Pardeep Station in the Backworlds is based on a really dinky town about 50 miles east of me.

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    1. I've always wondered where science fiction writers get their inspiration for locations. Now I know!

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  19. Gorgeous! I wish I could do research like that. I try to write what I know with a few twists. Most of my stories take place in the US Midwest since that's where I live.

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    1. Writing about places you know well adds a richness to the prose - you can allow your love of the area to shine through!

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  20. I do write about places I've visited and seen. That's how I world build. I might take a beautiful chalet and make that into my characters mansion and so forth. Hot chocolate sounds good right now, with the temp around 20 here.

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    1. To be honest, I drink hot chocolate in the height of summer too :-)

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  21. Hi Annalisa, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
    http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Hi Chris, nice to meet you. Thanks for the follow.

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  22. Great settings for your stories and your field research, Annalisa. I do like to write about places I've been. It's tougher when they're in LA, where I grew up, and can't easily visit.

    Be well.
    xoRobyn

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    1. I know, no matter how well you know a place, as soon as you start writing about it you forget really simple details. I'd written about two areas that no longer exist!!

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Please comment - I love a good chat!